Being seen to be green

There is little financial incentive for recycling, and recycling is generally, with a few exceptions, more expensive than dumping and making new goods from virgin materials. Yet there is a growing campaign for recycling, particularly promoted by local government – and more people are taking it up. The ‘black box’ outside your house is becoming a symbol of virtue, to reassure yourself that you are doing your bit. —Rob LyonsBeing seen to be green (Spiked)

I just picked up a few extra bucks reviewing the manuscript for a forthcoming freshman comp reader that included a whole chapter with about 12 readings on nature and ecology. The chapter included no articles that offered any significant challenges to environmentalist assumptions.

I dutifully put my cans and plastic bottles in a recycling bin. I save up all my junk mail and bring it to the university to recycle. I open the drapes to the east-facing windows in the winter, in order to take advantage of passive solar heat.

So it surprised me to read “recycling is generally, with a few exceptions, more expensive than dumping and making new goods from virgin materials”. I know about the bet between Paul Erlich and Julian Simon, and I’ve blogged from time to time about environmental skepticism, but I still don’t want to think that the (admittedly modest) effort I put into recycling at home makes so little impact.